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Nov 9, 2014

"One more time, but with feeling"...

Just a quick one today:

I've been reading about painting, more than I've actually been painting since I came home this month. Not so much about the how of painting but the why. It's easy for me to forget why I paint when I become caught up with the how, not that I am suggesting that art needs a reason to exist beyond itself. I'm just saying it is good for me to pause and think about such things every now and then.

Here is a quick excerpt from an obscure book on the laws of Japanese painting, published in 1911. Yes, from way back then. Not even sure how I ended up with the volume but it always amazes me where artistic redirection can come from...


"One of the most important principles in the art of Japanese painting—indeed, a fundamental and entirely distinctive characteristic—is that called living movement, sei do, or kokoro mochi, it being, so to say, the transfusion into the work of the felt nature of the thing to be painted by the artist. Whatever the subject to be translated—whether river or tree, rock or mountain, bird or flower, fish or animal—the artist at the moment of painting it must feel its very nature, which, by the magic of his art, he transfers into his work to remain forever, affecting all who see it with the same sensations he experienced when executing it.
This is not an imaginary principle but a strictly enforced law of Japanese painting. The student is incessantly admonished to observe it. Should his subject be a tree, he is urged when painting it to feel the strength which shoots through the branches and sustains the limbs. Or if a flower, to try to feel the grace with which it expands or bows its blossoms. Indeed, nothing is more constantly urged upon his attention than this great underlying principle that it is impossible to express in art what one does not first feel." 

From Henry P. Bowie's book, “On the Laws of Japanese Painting”, with black and white illustrations. Paul Elder and Company Publishers. 

If there is a why to painting then this is it.


( FWIW: I think perhaps the spelling of 'sei do' is more properly seido, which translates to accuracy, institution, organization, precision, or system depending upon the context. And as the author above implies, kokoro mochi seems to translate pretty closely to feeling.)


1 reader comments:

Sergio Lopez said...

That's a fantastic quote, I shall keep it in mind next time I paint